The GOP's $3 Billion Propaganda Organ
The American Right achieved its political dominance in Washington over the past quarter century with the help of more than $3 billion spent by Korean cult leader Sun Myung Moon on a daily propaganda organ, the Washington Times, according to a 21-year veteran of the newspaper.
George Archibald, who describes himself “as the first reporter hired at the Washington Times outside the founding group” and author of a commemorative book on the Times’ first two decades, has now joined a long line of disillusioned conservative writers who departed and warned the public about extremism within the newspaper.
In an Internet essay on recent turmoil inside the Times, Archibald also confirmed claims by some former Moon insiders that the cult leader has continued to pour in $100 million a year or more to keep the newspaper afloat. Archibald put the price tag for the newspaper’s first 24 years at “more than $3 billion of cash.”
At the newspaper’s tenth anniversary, Moon announced that he had spent $1 billion on the Times – or $100 million a year – but newspaper officials and some Moon followers have since tried to low-ball Moon’s subsidies in public comments by claiming they had declined to about $35 million a year.
The figure from Archibald and other defectors from Moon’s operation is about three times higher than the $35 million annual figure.
The apparent goal of downplaying Moon’s subsidy has been to quiet concerns that Moon was funneling vast sums of illicit money into the United States to influence the American political process in ways favorable to right-wing leaders – and possibly criminal cartels – around the world.
Though best known as the founder of the Unification Church, Moon, now 86, has long worked with right-wing political forces linked to organized crime and international drug smuggling, including the Japanese yakuza gangs and South American cocaine traffickers.
Moon insiders, including his former daughter-in-law Nansook Hong, also have described Moon’s system for laundering cash into the United States and then funneling much of it into his businesses and influence-buying apparatus, led by the Washington Times.
The Times, in turn, has targeted American politicians of the center and left with journalistic attacks – sometimes questioning their sanity, as happened with Democratic presidential nominees Michael Dukakis and Al Gore. Those themes then resonate through the broader right-wing echo chamber and into the mainstream media.
Washington Times articles are routinely cited by C-SPAN, for instance, without explanations to viewers that the newspaper is financed by an ultra-right religious cult leader, a convicted tax fraud and a publicly identified money-launderer. Most American listeners just think they’re getting straightforward news.
The Times also has led attacks on investigators who threatened to expose crimes committed by Republican and right-wing operatives. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Times targeted Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, who recounted in his memoir Firewall the importance of the Times in protecting the Reagan-Bush administration’s legal flanks.
When journalistic and congressional investigations began uncovering evidence of drug trafficking by the Nicaraguan contra rebels, the Washington Times counter-attacked, too, although in that case the Moon organization may have had a direct interest in containing the probes that could have exposed its relationship with South American drug lords.
Besides the estimated $3 billion-plus invested in the Washington Times, Moon has spread money around to influential right-wingers, often coming to their rescue when they are facing financial ruin as happened with Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell in the mid-1990s. [See below.]
Moon also has paid lucrative speaking fees to political figures, such as former President George H.W. Bush who has appeared at Moon-organized functions in the United States, Asia and South America. At the launch of Moon’s South American newspaper in 1996, Bush hailed Moon as “the man with the vision.”
Moon has key defenders, too, in the U.S. Congress, such as Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 2004, Moon was given space in the Senate’s Dirksen building for a coronation of himself as “savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent.” [See The Hill, June 22, 2004]
Though primarily allied with the Republican Right, Moon has tossed money to some African-American ministers to gain favor with a key Democratic constituency.
Moon’s multi-billion-dollar political investments, in turn, have shielded him from sustained scrutiny since 1978 when he was identified by the congressional “Koreagate” investigation as part of a covert Korean influence-buying scheme. As a result of those findings about his finances, he was convicted in 1982 of tax fraud.
Ironically, however, as Moon implemented the influence-buying blueprint exposed by the “Koreagate” probe – investing in U.S. media, politicians and academia – he became an untouchable. He founded the Washington Times in 1982 and quickly put it into the service of Republican power.
President Ronald Reagan hailed Moon’s publication as his “favorite newspaper”; it even helped raise money for the Nicaraguan contras; and President George H.W. Bush invited its editor Wesley Pruden to the White House in 1991 “just to tell you how valuable the Times has become in Washington, where we read it every day.”
Washington Times defenders argue that the newspaper is independent of Moon’s religion and doesn’t proselytize for his faith.
But the argument misses the point because Moon’s organization is only a religious entity on one level. More substantively, it is an international conglomerate with investments in fishing, restaurants, gun manufacturing, tourism, banks, real estate and media.
Since its finances often operate on the shady side of the law, Moon’s organization requires, most of all, political influence for protection.
Similarly, Moon’s operation is not really “conservative” in the normal sense of the word. While it has worked with everyone from right-of-center Republicans to neo-fascist organizations, it also has joined forces with the reclusive communist leaders of North Korea when that was to Moon’s advantage. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Moon, North Korea & the Bushes.”]
Veteran Washington Times journalist Archibald as well as other Times employees who recently spoke to The Nation magazine have described a bitter internal struggle at the newspaper.
Times president “Douglas” Dong Moon Joo is standing by Pruden and other right-wing editors who have run the Times for years, while other influential Moon operatives believe it’s time to abandon the newspaper’s hard-right positions.
“A nasty succession battle is now heating up at the paper, punctuated by allegations of racism, sexism and unprofessional conduct, that have implications far beyond its fractious newsroom,” wrote Max Blumenthal in The Nation.
“According to several reliable inside sources, Preston Moon, the youngest son of Korean Unification Church leader and Times financier Sun Myung Moon, has initiated a search committee to find a replacement for editor-in-chief Wesley Pruden – a replacement who is not Pruden’s handpicked successor, managing editor Francis Coombs.
“Preston Moon wants to wrest control of the paper from Pruden and Coombs, according to a Times senior staffer, in order to shift the paper away from their brand of conservatism, which is characterized by extreme racial animus and connections to nativist and neo-Confederate organizations. A Harvard MBA, Preston Moon is said to be seeking to install an editorial regime with more widely palatable politics.”
Archibald’s essay describes Pruden as “an unreconstructed Confederate from Little Rock, Arkansas, who still believes the South and slavery were right and Lincoln was wrong in saving the Union.”
Pruden’s father, Wesley Pruden Sr., was a Baptist minister and chaplain to Little Rock’s segregationist Capital Citizens Council, which spearheaded the opposition to President Dwight Eisenhower’s order in 1957 to integrate the city’s Central High School.
In the 1990s, Pruden’s Washington Times continued to tap into those old segregationist ties, such as “Justice” Jim Johnson, to get salacious allegations about President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary. The mainstream press soon followed, setting the stage for the Republican congressional sweep in 1994 and Clinton’s impeachment in 1998.
In 2000, the Washington Times again was at the center of the assault on Al Gore’s candidacy – highlighting apocryphal quotes by Gore and using them to depict him as either dishonest or delusional. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Al Gore vs. the Media.”]
By then, however, the Washington Times had the help of a rapidly expanding right-wing media as well as mainstream journalists from the New York Times and the Washington Post who had come to realize the career advantage of tilting their reporting to the right.
Arguably one of the measures of the Washington Times’ success was how the major U.S. news organizations increasingly seemed to march to the same drummer, even when not under direct pressure to do so.
Over the past half dozen years, it has often been hard to distinguish between the fawning coverage of George W. Bush from the Washington Times and from the Washington Post. Both major Washington dailies bought into Bush’s false claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction with almost no skepticism.
Currently, the Washington Times seems inclined to continue serving as a leading defender of Republican power and thus of President Bush. Calling itself “America’s Newspaper,” the Moon-financed Times also has championed the cause of anti-immigration activists, another hot-button issue on the Right.
But the Times and other right-wing news outlets risk a credibility crisis as more and more Americans turn away from the Bush presidency and are turned off by the right-wing rhetoric demonizing citizens who have objected to Bush’s policies.
Nevertheless, history will surely record that Moon’s $3 billion-plus investment succeeded in buying a remarkable degree of Washington influence – and legal protection – for his dubious political/business/religious empire.
The extraordinary rise of Sun Myung Moon also tells a cynical story about how “respectability” is just one more Washington commodity that can be purchased with enough money.
Known for crowning himself at lavish ceremonies and ranting for hours in Korean about the proper use of sex organs, Sun Myung Moon may have the distinction of being the most unusual person ever to gain substantial influence in the U.S. capital. He has proved that in Washington, money talks.
When Moon became a major benefactor of the American conservative movement starting in the latter half of the 1970s, it was a time when the conservatives desperately needed money to build what they called their counter-establishment.
From a mysterious and seemingly bottomless slush fund, Moon ladled out cash to sponsor lavish conferences, to finance political interest groups and to publish the Washington Times.
Despite his strange goals – including the need to replace democracy and individuality with his own personal theocratic rule over the most intimate details of every person’s life – Moon lured into his circle some of the most prominent political figures of the modern era, including George H.W. Bush who grasped Moon’s value as a deep pocket for the conservative movement and for the Bush family.
Moon began building his political influence in Washington at a time when he was best known to Americans as the leader of the Unification Church, called the “Moonies.” Moon was blamed by thousands of American parents for brain-washing their children and transforming them into automatons who gave up their previous lives to devote nearly every waking hour in the service of Rev. Moon.
Gradually, however, Moon’s money gained him access to the nation’s ruling elite. The worst of the negative press coverage subsided. But few Americans, even those who took his money, knew much about his life and his true allegiances.
Who Is Moon?
Moon was born on Jan. 6, 1920, in a rural, northwestern corner of Korea, a rugged Asian peninsula then occupied by Japan, an occupation that would continue through the first 25 years of Moon’s life. Allied forces liberated the peninsula from the Japanese in 1945 and then divided Korea into two sections, the south controlled by the United States and the north occupied by Soviet troops.
In this post-war period, Moon, who had been raised within a Christian sect, moved to southern Korea and joined a mystical religious group called Israel Suo-won. The group preached the imminent arrival of a Korean Messiah and practiced a strange sexual ritual called “pikarume,” in which ministers purified women through sexual intercourse, the so-called “blessing of the womb.”
As he developed his own theology, Moon returned to the North, to communist-ruled North Korea, where he soon ran into legal troubles. North Korean authorities arrested him twice, apparently on morals charges connected to his sexual rites with young women. Moon’s supporters, however, have tried to portray Moon as the victim of communist repression, claiming that he was arrested not for sex charges but for espionage.
Whatever the real story about his detention in North Korea, Moon’s luck soon changed. On Oct. 14, 1950, with war raging on the Korean peninsula, United Nations troops overran the prison where Moon was held, freeing Moon and all the other inmates. According to Unification Church histories, Moon then trekked south, carrying on his back an injured prisoner named Pak Chung Hwa.
For years, church officials even published a photograph purportedly showing Pak piggy-backing on Moon across a river. But much of that story appears to be propaganda. Several church sources have since admitted that the photo was a hoax, that Moon is not the man in the picture and the location is not where Moon was.
Moon’s southward journey ended in the South Korean port of Pusan, where he resumed his missionary work. He later moved to Seoul, South Korea’s capital, where he founded his own church in May 1954. He called it T’ong-il Kyo, or Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. It became known as the Unification Church.
At the center of Moon’s theology was a new twist to the Old Testament story about the Fall of Man. Instead of biting into a forbidden apple, Eve copulated with Satan and then passed on the sin by having sex with Adam.
Thousands of years later, God sent Jesus to restore man to his original purity, Moon taught. But Jesus failed because he was betrayed by the Jews and died before he could father any sinless children.
Sex, therefore, remained at the center of Moon’s theology, the need for a Messiah to purify the human race through the reversal of the contamination caused by Satan’s seduction of Eve.
Moon taught that the failure of Jesus to begin this purification process by fathering children forced God to send a second Messiah, who turned out to be Moon himself. Moon saw his task as starting this sexual purification process and thus establishing God’s Kingdom on Earth.
The ultimate goal would be a worldwide theocracy ruled by Moon and his followers cleansed of Satan’s influence. Political power and religious authority went together, Moon lectured. “We cannot separate the political field from the religious,” Moon said.
But in South Korea, Moon found that government continued to be an obstacle to his religious plans. When he began to concentrate his religious recruitment on young idealistic college students, especially from an all-girls Christian school, Moon landed in legal hot water again.
The South Korean government arrested Moon in 1955 for allegedly conducting more sexual “purification” rites, according to several U.S. intelligence reports which are now public. Moon was freed three months later because none of the young women would testify for fear of public humiliation, according to an undated FBI summary, released under a Freedom of Information Act request.
“During the next two years in the national news media of South Korea, Rev. Moon was the butt of scandalist humor,” the FBI report said.
Church officials repeatedly have denied the reports of Moon’s sexual rituals. But the charges received new attention in 1993 with the Japanese publication of The Tragedy of the Six Marys -- a book by the early Moon disciple, Pak Chung Hwa, whom Moon supposedly carried to South Korea.
According to Pak’s book, Moon taught that Jesus was intended to save mankind by having sex with six already-married women who would then have sex with other men who would pass on the purification to other women until, eventually, all mankind would have pure blood.
Pak contended that Moon took on this personal duty as the second Messiah and began having sex with the “six Marys.” But Pak alleged that Moon began to abuse the practice by turning the “six Marys” into a kind of rotating sex club.
Pak wrote that Moon’s first wife divorced him after catching him in a sex ritual. In all, Pak estimated that there were at least 60 “Marys,” many of whom ended up destitute after Moon discarded them.
According to the testimony of one “Mary,” named Yu Shin Hee, she met Moon in the early 1950s and became a follower along with her husband. Devoted to the church, her husband abandoned her and her five children, whom she then put into an orphanage. She, in turn, agreed to become one of Moon’s “six Marys.”
But Yu Shin Hee claimed that Moon tired of her after just one “blood exchange,” a phrase referring to sexual intercourse. Still, she was required to have sex with other men. Seven years later, a broken woman with no money, she tried to return to her children, but they also rejected her.
When Moon impregnated another one of the women, Moon sent her to Japan where she gave birth to a baby boy, according to Pak’s account. Moon later admitted fathering the child, who died in a train crash at the age of 13. But Pak wrote that Moon refused to admit responsibility for other illegitimate children born to the women.
“By forwarding this teaching, he violated mothers, their daughters, their sisters,” Pak wrote. (After The Tragedy of the Six Marys was published, the Unification Church denounced the allegations as spurious. Under intense pressure, the aging Pak Chung Hwa agreed to recant. However, his book’s accounts tracked closely with U.S. intelligence reports of the same period and interviews with former church leaders.)
Moon’s history of sexual liaisons out of wedlock also was corroborated by Nansook Hong, one of Moon’s daughters-in-law who broke with the so-called True Family in 1995 over abuse she suffered at the hands of Moon’s eldest son, Hyo Jin Moon, during their 14-year marriage.
Nansook Hong reported in her 1998 book, In the Shadow of the Moons, that family members, including Moon himself, acknowledged that he had “providential” sex with women in his role as the Messiah. Nansook Hong said she learned about Moon’s sexual affairs when her husband, Hyo Jin, began justifying his affairs as mandated by God, as his father claimed his affairs were.
“I went directly to Mrs. Moon with Hyo Jin’s claims,” Nansook Hong wrote. “She was both furious and tearful. She had hoped that such pain would end with her, that it would not be passed on to the next generation, she told me.
“No one knows the pain of a straying husband like True Mother, she assured me. I was stunned. We had all heard rumors for years about Sun Myung Moon’s affairs and the children he sired out of wedlock, but here was True Mother, confirming the truth of these stories.
“I told her that Hyo Jin said his sleeping around was ‘providential’ and inspired by God, just as Father’s affairs were. ‘No, Father is the Messiah, not Hyo Jin. What Father did was in God’s plan.’” Later, in a discussion about the extramarital sex, Moon himself told Nansook Hong that “what happened in his past was ‘providential,’” she wrote.
As for the sexual purification rituals, Nansook Hong said the rumors had followed the church for decades, despite the official denials.
“In the early days of the Unification Church, members met in a small house with two rooms,” Nansook Hong wrote. “It was known as the House of the Three Doors. It was rumored that at the first door one was made to take off one’s jacket, at the second door one’s outer clothing, and at the third one’s undergarments in preparation for sex.”
As for Chung Hwa Pak’s Tragedy of the Six Marys, Nansook Hong said Moon succeeded in persuading his old associate to rejoin the church and then got him to disavow the memoirs. “I’ve always wondered what the price was of that retraction,” Nansook Hong wrote.
Madeleine Pretorious, a Unification Church member from South Africa, also had worked closely with Moon’s temperamental son, Hyo Jin, and had learned from him that the long-denied accounts of Moon’s sexual rites with female initiates were true.
“When Hyo Jin found out about his father’s ‘purification’ rituals, that took a lot out of wind out of his sails,” Pretorious told me in an interview after she left the church in the mid-1990s.
In late 1994, during conversations in Hyo Jin's suite at the New Yorker Hotel, "he confided a lot of things to me," Pretorious said. Hyo Jin also had discovered that the Reverend Moon fathered a child out of wedlock in the early 1970s. Moon arranged for the child to be raised by his longtime lieutenant Bo Hi Pak, Pretorious said.
The boy – now a young man – had confronted Hyo Jin, seeking recognition as Hyo Jin's half-brother. Pretorious said she later corroborated the story with other church members.
The alleged sexual rituals, which involved passing around women, would become a point of embarrassment later, but the practices apparently helped the Unification Church in recruiting men in the early days.
By the late 1950s, Moon had managed to build a small cadre of loyal followers and was reaching out beyond Korea. By the early 1960s, the church also was pulling in better educated young men, including some with connections to South Korea's intelligence services.
Kim Jong-Pil and three other young English-speaking army officers became closely associated with Moon's church during this transitional phase as the institution evolved from an obscure Korean sect into a powerful international organization.
Beyond his association with Moon’s sect, Kim Jong-Pil was a rising star in South Korea’s intelligence community. In 1961, he founded the KCIA, which centralized Seoul's internal and external intelligence activities. Another one of the promising young KCIA officers was Colonel Bo Hi Pak, also a Moon disciple.
With these KCIA officers, however, it was never clear whether the benefits of the religion were paramount or if they simply recognized the potential that an international church held as a cover for intelligence operations.
In many countries, especially the United States, churches are granted broad protections against government interference. With missionaries traveling around the world and with church members attending international religious conferences, a church also provided an effective cover for spying, money-laundering or passing on messages to agents.
In 1962, KCIA founder Kim Jong-Pil traveled to San Francisco where he met with Unification Church members. According to an account later published by a congressional investigation, Kim Jong-Pil promised discreet support for Moon's church.
At the same time of his contacts with associates from the Unification Church, Kim Jong-Pil was in charge of another sensitive negotiation: talks to improve bilateral relations with Japan, Korea’s historic enemy.
Those talks put Kim Jong-Pil in touch with two other important figures in the Far East, Japanese rightists Yoshio Kodama and Ryoichi Sasakawa, who once hailed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as "the perfect fascist."
Kodama and Sasakawa were jailed as fascist war criminals at the end of World War II, but a few years later, both Kodama and Sasakawa were freed by U.S. military intelligence officials.
The U.S. government turned to Kodama and Sasakawa for help in combating communist labor unions and student strikes, much as the CIA protected German Nazi war criminals who supplied intelligence and performed other services in the intensifying Cold War battles with European communists.
Kodama and Sasakawa obliged U.S. intelligence by dispatching right-wing goon squads to break up demonstrations, according to the authoritative book, Yakuza, by David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro.
Kodama and Sasakawa also allegedly grew rich from their association with the yakuza, a shadowy organized crime syndicate that profited off drug smuggling, gambling and prostitution in Japan and Korea. Behind the scenes, Kodama and Sasakawa became power-brokers in Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Kim Jong-Pil's contacts with these right-wing leaders proved invaluable to the Unification Church, which had made only a few converts in Japan by the early 1960s. Immediately after Kim Jong-Pil opened the door to Kodama and Sasakawa in late 1962, 50 leaders of an ultra-nationalist Japanese Buddhist sect converted en masse to the Unification Church, according to Kaplan and Dubro.
"Sasakawa became an advisor to Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Japanese branch of the Unification Church" and collaborated with Moon in building far-right anti-communist organizations in Asia, Kaplan and Dubro wrote.
The church's growth spurt did not escape the notice of U.S. intelligence officers in the field. One CIA report, dated Feb. 26, 1963, stated that "Kim Jong-Pil organized the Unification Church while he was director of the ROK [Republic of Korea] Central Intelligence Agency, and has been using the church, which had a membership of 27,000, as a political tool."
Though Moon's church had existed since the mid-1950s, the report appeared correct in noting Kim Jong-Pil's key role in transforming the church from a minor Korean sect into a potent international organization.
With alliances in place in Tokyo and Seoul, the Unification Church next took aim at Washington.
In 1964, Bo Hi Pak, who was emerging as one of Moon’s most able lieutenants, moved to America and started the Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation, a front that performed the dual purpose of helping Moon meet important Americans, while assisting the KCIA in its international operations.
Bo Hi Pak named KCIA founder Kim Jong-Pil to be the foundation's "honorary chairman." The foundation also sponsored the KCIA’s anti-communist propaganda outlets, such as Radio of Free Asia, according to the congressional report on the “Koreagate” scandal.
Moon's church also was active in the Asian People's Anti-Communist League, a fiercely right-wing group founded by the governments of South Korea and Taiwan. In 1966, the group expanded into the World Anti-Communist League, an international alliance that brought together traditional conservatives with former Nazis, overt racialists and Latin American “death squad” operatives.
Retired U.S. Army Gen. John K. Singlaub, a former WACL president, told me that “the Japanese [WACL] chapter was taken over almost entirely by Moonies.”
By the 1970s, the U.S. public was aware of Moon and his church, but much of the attention was negative. Parents complained that the church brainwashed their children and pressured them to cut off contacts with their families, while proclaiming Moon their “True Father.”
The totalitarian nature of Moon's church stood out in his staging of mass marriages, or "blessings," in which he would pair up husbands and wives who had never met. Moon also regulated the sexual behavior of even his married followers, a practice that replaced the more personal method of “blessing the womb” that allegedly had prevailed in the church’s early days.
In 1973, amid American reversals in Indochina, alarm began to spread within Seoul’s right-wing dictatorship about the strength of the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea in case of aggression from the communist North. Those fears led the KCIA, long known for its gross human rights violations, to begin plotting how to bolster its friends in the United States and undermine its enemies.
Lee Jai Hyon, the chief cultural and information attaché at the South Korean embassy in Washington, later testified before the U.S. Congress that he sat in on a series of meetings chaired by the KCIA’s station chief, involving senior embassy officials.
Lee Jai Hyon described six sessions over a five-week period in spring 1973 at which a conspiracy was outlined to “manipulate,” “coerce,” “threaten,” “co-opt,” “seduce,” and “buy off” political and other leaders of the United States. Lee Jai Hyon said one of the South Koreans participating in the operation was Moon's top aide Bo Hi Pak.
At the time, Moon was raising concerns among U.S. immigration authorities for bringing hundreds of foreign followers to the United States on tourist visas and then assigning them to mobile fund-raising teams.
But Moon, who owned property outside New York City while maintaining a residence in South Korea, somehow managed to secure a “green card” from the Nixon administration on April 30, 1973. The permit making Moon a “lawful permanent resident” also granted him more legal rights than would be available to a foreign visitor.
“The advantages of using the First Amendment were seen early,” wrote Robert Boettcher, the former staff director of the House Subcommittee on International Relations, in his 1980 book, Gifts of Deceit. “Before Moon moved to the United States in 1971, he and his small band of followers realized the operation would have the most flexibility if it was called a church. Businesses, political activities, and tax-exempt status could be protected.”
As Moon stepped up his activities, however, the FBI soon began to suspect that Moon’s activities had a political motive. The FBI summary of its evidence about Moon’s church was marked by a number indicating that the Unification Church was under a counter-intelligence investigation in the 1970s.
Although blacked-out portions obscured who was stating some of the conclusions – an individual source or the FBI – the report described the church as "an absolutely totalitarian organization" which was part of an international "conspiracy" that functioned by its own rules.
"One of the central doctrines of the Moon relig[i]ous aspects is what they call heavenly deception,” the FBI report said. “It basically says that to take from Satan what rightfully belongs to God, you may do most anything. You may lie, cheat, steal or kill."
Despite the FBI's concerns, Moon began making friends in Washington the old-fashioned way: by spreading around lots of money. Moon also had his followers cozy up to government officials.
According to the FBI summary, Moon designated "300 pretty girls" to lobby members of Congress. "They were trying to influence United States senators and congressmen on behalf of South Korea," the FBI document read.
"Moon had laid the foundation for political work in this country prior to 1973 [though] his followers became more openly involved in political activities in that and subsequent years," a congressional investigative report on the "Koreagate" influence-buying scandal stated in 1978.
The report added that Moon's organization used his followers' travels to smuggle large sums of money into the United States in apparent violation of federal currency laws.
Moon organized rallies in support of the Vietnam War and in defense of President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Moon sponsored a National Prayer and Fast Committee, using the slogan: "forgive, love, unite." The public rallies earned Moon a face-to-face "thank you" from the embattled President on Feb. 1, 1974.
In late 1975, the CIA intercepted a secret South Korean document entitled "1976 Plan for Operations in the United States." In the name of "strengthening the execution of the U.S. security commitment to the ROK [South Korea]," it called for influencing U.S. public opinion by penetrating American media, government and academia.
Thousands of dollars were earmarked for "special manipulation" of congressmen; their staffs were to be infiltrated with paid "collaborators"; an "intelligence network" was to be put into the White House; money was targeted for "manipulation" of officials at the Pentagon, State Department and CIA; some U.S. journalists were to be spied on, while others would be paid; a "black newspaper" would be started in New York; contacts with American scholars would be coordinated "with Psychological Warfare Bureau"; and "an organizational network of anti-communist fronts" would be created.
Several months later, in summer 1976, Moon returned to the United States and delivered a flattering pro-U.S. speech at a red-white-and-blue flag-draped rally at the Washington Monument.
"The United States of America, transcending race and nationality, is already a model of the unified world," Moon declared on Sept. 18, 1976. Calling America "the chosen nation of God," Moon said, "I not only respect America, but truly love this nation."
While professing his love for America in public, Moon shared with his followers a very different sentiment in private. He despised American concepts of individuality and democracy, believing that he was destined to rule through a one-world theocracy that would eradicate all personal freedoms.
"Here's a man [Moon] who says he wants to take over the world, where all religions will be abolished except Unificationism, all languages will be abolished except Korean, all governments will be abolished except his one-world theocracy," Steve Hassan, a former church leader, told me. "Yet he's wined and dined very powerful people and convinced them that he's benign."
In 1976, Moon’s search for growing influence in the United States seemed to be following the KCIA script.
Moon started a small-circulation newspaper in New York City that featured a column by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. Moon promoted the anti-communist cause through front groups which held lavish conferences and paid speaking fees to academics, journalists and political leaders.
In 1976, Moon, Bo Hi Pak and other church members deepened their investments in the U.S. capital, buying stock in the Washington-based Diplomat National Bank. Simultaneously, South Korean agent Tongsun Park was investing heavily in the same bank.
But the South Korean scheme backfired in the late 1970s with the explosion of the "Koreagate" scandal. Rep.Donald Fraser, a Democrat from Minnesota, led a congressional probe which tracked Tongsun Park's influence-buying campaign and exposed the KCIA links to the Unification Church.
The “Koreagate” investigation revealed a sophisticated intelligence project run out of Seoul that used the urbane Park as well as the mystical Moon to cultivate U.S. politicians as influential friends of South Korea – and conversely to undermine politicians who were viewed as enemies.
Though it's clear the church did collaborate with the KCIA during the 1960s and 1970s, it's less clear whether Moon was using the KCIA or it was using him. Most likely, the relationship was symbiotic, each using the other to advance their overlapping but different interests.
The alliance with the KCIA gave Moon political protection and business opportunities, while the KCIA got a cover for promoting South Korean interests inside the United States, the country responsible for South Korea's defense.
The “Koreagate” investigation traced the church's chief sources of money to bank accounts in Japan, but could follow the cash no further. In the years since, the sources of Moon’s money have remained cloaked in secrecy.
In the mid-1990s when I inquired about the vast fortune that the Unification Church has poured into its American operations, the church's chief spokesman refused to divulge dollar amounts for any of Moon's activities.
"Each year the church retains an independent accounting firm to do a national audit and produce an annual financial statement," wrote the church’s legal representative Peter D. Ross. "While this statement is used in routine financial transactions by the church, [it] is not my policy to make it otherwise available."
In 1978, Fraser got a taste of the negative side of Moon’s propaganda clout as the South Korean religious leader’s new U.S. conservative allies mounted a strong defense against the “Koreagate” allegations.
In pro-Moon publications, Fraser and his staff were pilloried as leftists. Anti-Moon witnesses were assailed as unstable liars. Minor bookkeeping problems inside the investigation, such as Fraser's salary advances to some staff members, were seized upon to justify demands for an ethics probe of the congressman.
One of those letters, dated June 30, 1978, was written by John T. "Terry" Dolan of the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC). Dolan's group was pioneering the strategy of "independent" TV attack ads against liberal Democrats. In turn, Moon's CAUSA International helped Dolan by contributing $500,000 to a Dolan group, known as the Conservative Alliance or CALL. [Washington Post, Sept. 17, 1984]
With support from Dolan and other conservatives, Moon weathered the “Koreagate” political storm. Facing questions about his patriotism, Fraser lost a Senate bid in 1978 and left Congress.
Though Moon had helped defeat his chief congressional critic, the evidence unearthed by Fraser became the foundation of a tax-fraud conviction of Moon in 1982 and his sentencing to two years in federal prison.
A Media Empire
Despite his felony conviction, Moon pressed ahead with his boldest bid for political influence. In 1982, Moon launched the Washington Times.
The Times was just what the Reagan administration wanted, a reliable voice for its version of events that would push the message into the public debate.
Though Moon would have to subsidize his publications with hundreds of millions of dollars from his seemingly bottomless pool of cash, the newspaper – over the next two decades – would change the parameters of how the U.S. press corps works and affect the course of U.S. presidential campaigns.
Where all that money came from, however, would remain one of Washington’s least examined secrets.
Authors Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson wrote in their 1986 book, Inside the League, that Sun Myung Moon was one of five indispensable Asian leaders who made the World Anti-Communist League possible.
The five were Taiwan’s dictator Chiang Kai-shek, South Korea’s dictator Park Chung Hee, yakuza gangsters Ryoichi Sasakawa and Yoshio Kodama, and Moon, “an evangelist who planned to take over the world through the doctrine of ‘Heavenly Deception,’” the Andersons wrote.
WACL became a well-financed worldwide organization after a secret meeting between Sasakawa and Moon, along with two Kodama representatives, on a lake in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. The purpose of the meeting was to create an anti-communist organization that “would further Moon’s global crusade and lend the Japanese yakuza leaders a respectable new façade,” the Andersons wrote.
Mixing organized crime and political extremism, of course, has a long tradition throughout the world. Violent political movements often have blended with criminal operations as a way to arrange covert funding, move operatives or acquire weapons.
Drug smuggling has proven to be a particularly effective way to fill the coffers of extremist movements, especially those that find ways to insinuate themselves within more legitimate operations of sympathetic governments or intelligence services.
In the quarter century after World War II, remnants of fascist movements managed to do just that. Shattered by the major Allies – the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union – the surviving fascists got a new lease on political life with the start of the Cold War, helping both Western democracies and right-wing dictatorships battle international communism.
Some Nazi leaders faced war-crimes tribunals after World War II, but others managed to make their escapes along “rat lines” to Spain or South America or they finagled intelligence relationships with the victorious powers, especially the United States.
Argentina became a natural haven given the pre-war alliance that existed between the European fascists and prominent Argentine military leaders, such as Juan Peron. The fleeing Nazis also found like-minded right-wing politicians and military officers across Latin America who already used repression to keep down the indigenous populations and the legions of the poor.
In the post-World War II years, some Nazi war criminals chose reclusive lives, but others, such as former SS officer Klaus Barbie, sold their intelligence skills to less-sophisticated security services in countries like Bolivia or Paraguay.
Other Nazis on the lam trafficked in narcotics. Often the lines crossed between intelligence operations and criminal conspiracies.
Auguste Ricord, a French war criminal who had collaborated with the Gestapo, set up shop in Paraguay and opened up the French Connection heroin channels to American Mafia drug kingpin Santo Trafficante Jr., who controlled much of the heroin traffic into the United States. Columns by Jack Anderson identified Ricord’s accomplices as some of Paraguay’s highest-ranking military officers.
Another French Connection mobster, Christian David, relied on protection of Argentine authorities. While trafficking in heroin, David also “took on assignments for Argentina’s terrorist organization, the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance,” Henrik Kruger wrote in The Great Heroin Coup.
During President Nixon’s “war on drugs,” U.S. authorities smashed the famous French Connection and won extraditions of Ricord and David in 1972 to face justice in the United States.
By the time the French Connection was severed, however, powerful Mafia drug lords had forged strong ties to South America’s military leaders. An infrastructure for the multi-billion-dollar drug trade, servicing the insatiable U.S. market, was in place.
Trafficante-connected groups also recruited displaced anti-Castro Cubans, who had ended up in Miami, needed work, and possessed some useful intelligence skills gained from the CIA’s training for the Bay of Pigs and other clandestine operations. Heroin from the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia soon filled the void left by the broken French Connection and its mostly Middle Eastern heroin supply routes.
Enter Rev. Moon
During this time of transition, Sun Myung Moon brought his evangelical message to South America. His first visit to Argentina had occurred in 1965 when he blessed a square behind the presidential Pink House in Buenos Aires. But he returned a decade later to make more lasting friendships.
Moon first sank down roots in Uruguay during the 12-year reign of right-wing military dictators who seized power in 1973. He also cultivated close relations with military dictators in Argentina, Paraguay and Chile, reportedly ingratiating himself with the juntas by helping the military regimes arrange arms purchases and by channeling money to allied right-wing organizations.
“Relationships nurtured with right-wing Latin Americans in the [World Anti-Communist] League led to acceptance of the [Unification] Church’s political and propaganda operations throughout Latin America,” the Andersons wrote in Inside the League.
“As an international money laundry, … the Church tapped into the capital flight havens of Latin America. Escaping the scrutiny of American and European investigators, the Church could now funnel money into banks in Honduras, Uruguay and Brazil, where official oversight was lax or nonexistent.”
In 1980, Moon made more friends in South America when a right-wing alliance of Bolivia military officers and drug dealers organized what became known as the Cocaine Coup. WACL associates, such as Alfred Candia, coordinated the arrival of some of the paramilitary operatives who assisted in the violent putsch.
Right-wing Argentine intelligence officers mixed with a contingent of young European neo-fascists collaborating with Nazi war criminal Barbie in carrying out the bloody coup that overthrew the elected left-of-center government.
The victory put into power a right-wing military dictatorship indebted to the drug lords. Bolivia became South America’s first narco-state.
One of the first well-wishers arriving in La Paz to congratulate the new government was Moon’s top lieutenant, Bo Hi Pak. The Moon organization published a photo of Pak meeting with the new strongman, General Garcia Meza.
After the visit to the mountainous capital, Pak declared, “I have erected a throne for Father Moon in the world’s highest city.”
According to later Bolivian government and newspaper reports, a Moon representative invested about $4 million in preparations for the coup. Bolivia’s WACL representatives also played key roles, and CAUSA, one of Moon’s anti-communist organizations, listed as members nearly all the leading Bolivian coup-makers.
Soon, Colonel Luis Arce-Gomez, a coup organizer and the cousin of cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez, went into partnership with big narco-traffickers, including Trafficante’s Cuban-American smugglers. Nazi war criminal Barbie and his young neo-fascist followers found new work protecting Bolivia’s major cocaine barons and transporting drugs to the border.
“The paramilitary units – conceived by Barbie as a new type of SS – sold themselves to the cocaine barons,” German journalist Kai Hermann wrote. “The attraction of fast money in the cocaine trade was stronger than the idea of a national socialist revolution in Latin America.” [An English translation of Hermann’s article was published in Covert Action Information Bulletin, Winter 1986]
A month after the coup, General Garcia Meza participated in the Fourth Congress of the Latin American Anti-Communist Confederation, an arm of the World Anti-Communist League. Also attending that Fourth Congress was WACL president Woo Jae Sung, a leading Moon disciple.
As the drug lords consolidated their power in Bolivia, the Moon organization expanded its presence, too. Hermann reported that in early 1981, war criminal Barbie and Moon leader Thomas Ward were seen together in apparent prayer.
On May 31, 1981, Moon representatives sponsored a CAUSA reception at the Sheraton Hotel’s Hall of Freedom in La Paz. Moon’s lieutenant Bo Hi Pak and Bolivian strongman Garcia Meza led a prayer for President Reagan’s recovery from an assassination attempt.
In his speech, Bo Hi Pak declared, “God had chosen the Bolivian people in the heart of South America as the ones to conquer communism.” According to a later Bolivian intelligence report, the Moon organization sought to recruit an “armed church” of Bolivians, with about 7,000 Bolivians receiving some paramilitary training.
But by late 1981, the cocaine taint of Bolivia’s military junta was so deep and the corruption so staggering that U.S.-Bolivian relations were stretched to the breaking point.
“The Moon sect disappeared overnight from Bolivia as clandestinely as they had arrived,” Hermann reported.
The Cocaine Coup leaders soon found themselves on the run, too. Interior Minister Arce-Gomez was eventually extradited to Miami and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for drug trafficking. Drug lord Roberto Suarez got a 15-year prison term. General Garcia Meza became a fugitive from a 30-year sentence imposed on him in Bolivia for abuse of power, corruption and murder. Barbie was returned to France to face a life sentence for war crimes. He died in 1992.
But Moon’s organization suffered few negative repercussions from the Cocaine Coup. By the early 1980s, flush with seemingly unlimited funds, Moon had moved on to promoting himself with the new Republican administration in Washington. An invited guest to the Reagan-Bush Inauguration, Moon made his organization useful to President Reagan, Vice President Bush and other leading Republicans.
An early concern of the Reagan administration was the possibility that a popular movement – similar to the anti-Vietnam War protests – would undermine the hard-line policies that the new U.S. government considered indispensable for stopping the spread of Soviet influence in Central America.
Staunch anticommunists in the administration also suspected that some groups opposed to U.S. intervention in the region could be discredited for holding suspect political loyalties. Though Moon’s organization itself had been exposed by the “Koreagate” investigation as a foreign intelligence operation, the administration still turned to it to help probe the loyalty of Americans.
Starting in 1981, the FBI cooperated with one of Moon’s front groups during a five-year nationwide investigation of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), a domestic organization critical of Reagan’s policies in Central America.
According to FBI documents obtained by Boston Globe reporter Ross Gelbspan, the FBI collected reports from Moon’s Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP), which was spying on CISPES supporters. The reports came from CARP members at 10 university campuses around the United States and included commentaries on the purported political beliefs of Reagan’s critics. [Boston Globe, April 20, 1988]
One CARP report called a CISPES supporter “well-educated in Marxism” while other CARP reports attached “clippings culled from communist-inspired front groups.” The Globe investigation reported that Frank Varelli, who worked for the FBI from 1981 to 1984 coordinating the CISPES probe, said an FBI agent paid members of the Moon organization at Southern Methodist University while the Moon activists were raiding and disrupting CISPES rallies.
“Every week, an agent I worked with used to go to SMU to pay the Moonies,” Varelli said in an interview. Because of the CARP harassment, CISPES closed its SMU chapter.
While Moon’s organization was helping to spy on American citizens, the case against Moon as a suspected intelligence agent for South Korea was petering out. It’s still not clear why.
“I don’t think there was any doubt that the Moon newspaper took a virulently pro-South Korea position,” Oliver “Buck” Revell, then a senior FBI official in the national security area, told me. “But whether there was something illegal about it...” His voice trailed off. As for the internal security investigation of Moon, Revell added only: “It led its full life.”
Part Two: Mysterious Cash
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